A former AFL star was made a big impression on the Brownlow red carpet, capping a stunning redemption story after his troubled past.
AFL fans were surprised when it emerged former West Coast Eagles star and 2005 winner Ben Cousins had accepted an invitation to this year’s Brownlow event in Perth.
Photos emerged on Sunday afternoon on social media of Cousins clean-shaven and dressed in a grey suit, ready to attend the awards ceremony.
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He then made his return to the AFL community official, appearing on the red carpet wearing a black tuxedo, alongside his guest Kelley Fergus.
Cousins said he was “absolutely” excited to be at the Brownlow.
“Yeah it’s definitely a big night,” he said.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been to one of the football industry nights. So I’m looking forward to it.”
The Daily Mail reports Cousins’ date Fergus is a West Australian fly-in, fly-out worker who works for fine foods supplier Gourmet WA.
For much of his AFL career, Cousins dated Samantha Druce. The pair were together for 13 years before splitting in 2007.
He then had a relationship with Maylea Tinecheff — the mother of his two children — which broke down because of Cousins’ drug addiction.
On Sunday night Cousins hinted he had worked hard to get back into a situation where he could be invited to such a high-profile AFL event.
“A little bit behind the scenes, but that’s part of it,” he said.
“You know, we find ourselves in different situations along the way. So just great to be here tonight.”
It’s the first time Cousins has attended the Brownlow Medal since 2010.
His return to the red carpet is another promising sign he is continuing to get his life back on track, following a lengthy drug addiction and a prison term.
He was found guilty of stalking his former partner in October last year and was jailed for seven months after intimidating the mother of his two children.
Cousins pleaded guilty to a drugs charge when found in possession in April 2020 and was fined $1500.
But the ex-Eagles captain has made a promising impression since his release from prison. He is working in construction and made a return to Aussie rules earlier this year, playing for the Queens Park Bulldogs in a local Perth football league.
McLachlan confirmed Cousins would be attending the ceremony on Sunday evening.
“I saw a list yesterday and he was going,” he said.
“He has been invited every year and for various reasons it’s not been something he has been able to do but I gather he’s in pretty good health and he’s coming. He has accepted, I understand.”